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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ted Beckham interview with Red News - part 1

Red News has got a lot of time for Ted Beckham, and the nice thing is he’s got a lot of time for us. We often used to see him at away games when we sold RN outside and he, and his then wife Sandra, would stop for a chat and talk all things United. No arse licking, and often a quite honest appraisal on all things Red, most notably after the defeat in Stuttgart and his disappointment that we might have let Veron go too early. Ted’s passion for United – and of course his son – was plain to anyone who recognised him.

He liked a low profile but that didn’t mean to say he kept his support hidden. I can remember after a victory at Highbury seeing him buzzing as he left the ground, ready to rub some noses in it back on his work routes. You can only imagine – or dream – how it must have felt seeing your son play for your team. Perhaps even more admirable that even after David departed, he did what every true Red would, however hard initially. Carried on supporting United regardless. There he was at Charlton recently...when he turned down the chance to be lauded at the Real Madrid-Barca game. All credit.

If it was sad the way Becks departed (and I lay faults on both sides), sadder too that Ted and Sandra split up and the memorabilia that Ted had obviously painstakingly and lovingly collected throughout David’s career had to be split up by lawyers. It’s not my position – we’re a United fanzine not a tabloid – to delve and pry, but after an enjoyable interview I felt sad thinking about some of Ted's comments. He wouldn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him of course, but though what’s done is done with the Beckham transfer, his comments about the Ronaldo and the ‘makes Beckham look shite’ song hit a raw nerve with Ted, and should do with us. It’s not a clever line, is easily replaceable and to be honest is pretty insulting. It's un-United. Maybe we should change it to ‘That boy Ronaldo…should watch a few DVDs of Beckham’s time at United to see how to cross the ball for a goal…’.

The book may not be everyones cup of tea. It’s certainly got the feel of a scrapbook shared with a wider audience. But for a kid it’s an ideal way to see that dreams sometimes do come true. Some of the items shown in the book have been meticulously saved and are wonderful to see all these years on. But you get the feeling – and Ted didn’t divulge any family skeletons in the book, why should he? – that he just wanted to do it as much for himself as anything else.

He didn’t have to speak to Red News now. You could tell that he wasn’t into the publicity machine game that goes with publicisng a book and though he has Stuart Higgins’ agency (the former editor of the SUN) working with him, when we got in touch we were told that though he’d wanted to limit media duties, we were top of his list. True to his word he rang us a few days later, and spent over 30 minutes chatting, when usually you can tell that people can’t wait to get it all over and done with. He turned down mainstream media shows yet spoke to Red News because he knew us.

He was spotted on the Eurostar to Paris for the Lille game, when he again could have chosen to watch Madrid instead. I haven’t ever heard a bad word about him, easily comparable to the response when you mention Neville Neville’s name. I hope United fans appreciate Ted Beckham. Not because he chose to do anything amazing, bar father an amazingly gifted son, but that he, even after all that happened, carried on doing – support United – what he’d always done. Some Reds would maybe say, ‘well, that’s what true Reds would always do’. Exactly. It must have been hard but, as Ted admits, what a journey.
The Interview

RN: Are you pleased with the book?
TB: I am really pleased with it and the story. It starts off really well as the guy who did it absolutely captured how I felt. Right at the beginning it’s the 99 final in Barcelona. I didn’t know he was doing it that way but it’s exactly how I felt and the actual story and the pictures really complement the book and I’m pleased with them.
RN: You see the photos of you holding Becks as a kid, was it quite emotional researching the book?
TB: Well, it’s like any dad really. When you have a boy - every bloke wants a boy no matter what you think - and when you get your son you're over the moon and of course you want him to do the things you want him to, I was no different.
RN: Just try to explain to United fans what it must be like (a) your son being a professional footballer and (b) playing for the team that you have loved and support?
TB: Right from day one I have always supported Manchester United and when you have a son that loves football all you think about is him just playing football. I used to take him to all the games when United were in London and wherever possible and he always said when we used to have a bit of banter and what have you, I’d say, “Well, when you're playing for Barnet” and he’d say: ‘No dad, I am going to play for Man United’. And even at an early age of about six or seven that’s what he used to say so its just the most amazing feeling. It's the only way you can describe it.
When the United scout came round it was funny really because it was one of the only games I couldn’t get too. David was playing for Waltham Forest against Redbridge and I couldn’t get there and his mum was there with him. He was always the last one out of the dressing room and all of a sudden she’s standing there waiting for him and the United scout - Malcolm Fidgen - came up and said ‘I don’t know whether you know who I am but I’m the Man Utd scout. I have been watching David for some weeks and I would like him to go up to Manchester for trials’. The feeling! His mum rang me. It was the most exciting feeling I think I have ever felt.
Just having the trial meant a lot. She didn’t know what to say so she said to him: “Here’s his dads phone number ,ring it tonight”. So he rang and said he would like to come round to see us. I mean there were a few other clubs after him. West ham, Tottenham, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest sent us a letter and all that. It was just something that you never thought could happen.
RN: Can you remember when you first saw Fergie and thought ‘god, can this actually be happening?’
TB: When the scout phoned us up and came round I remember watching a programme on George Best on the telly where he was in digs and there was the landlady and landlord who looked after him sitting there and I always remember thinking I wonder what that feeling is like? I knew that feeling when the scout came round and he said: 'You know he is very small, very slight but I am 4 not worried about that because he will grow. What I like about him is his quick brain, there aren’t many players that have got that”.
Then David went up for a few weeks and he was going up in the summer up to Manchester and all of a sudden one Friday night I was working late, and I came home and my wife was as white as a ghost and I said: ‘What’s the matter?’. She went ‘You would never believe who has just rang me’. “Who?” ‘Alex Ferguson’, I went “Yeah, alright”, ‘No, he’s just phoned up, I couldn’t understand him. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but I did get that we’ve got a very talented lad and they’d been keeping a check on him and he’s absolutely brilliant. He’s got every potential to be a Man United great’. I didn’t hear the rest of it! And that was that!
About a week later the scout phoned us and said we were playing West Ham and would we like to go and have dinner the night before with the team and Alex Ferguson. It was just the most amazing feeling of excitement for me as well as David. Also when I went up to Manchester when he won the Bobby Charlton school and I met Bobby Charlton because he’s always been my hero. I think I was more excited than David then!
RN: What was it like - you’ve had these heroes and then suddenly you’re getting to mix with them?
TB: I was a big kid. I was meeting the likes of Paddy Crerand and I met Brian Kidd. They are all people that I supported when I was younger. Meeting them was just amazing. You don’t realise you can get near people like that. But when they call you...I mean, there are so many stories and so many things that I could say. Bobby Charlton was absolutely brilliant and he still is. I mean when I see him he says “Hello Mr Beckham”. “Mr Beckham!”, that’s Sir Bobby Charlton, you know what I mean. The feeling of admiration for him. I loved him when I was a kid and youngster.
RN: Do you see much of Crerand these days?
TB: Oh yeah. Paddy Crerand is brilliant. I see him on away trips when we go to Europe. I still go, I’m still a season ticket holder so I go to all the away games. Meeting him. I’m quite good friends with him. It‘s just superb.
RN: How hard was it after David left to go to Manchester?
TB It was difficult. The only way I could describe it is if one day you go in and switch that light on and it’s great and you can see everything and then all of a sudden you switch it off and that’s it. That’s how it felt when David went up to Manchester. Although we were very fortunate. It’s only a couple of hours up the road. Unlike Keith Gillespie’s family and other people and other families and other mums and dads who can’t get to games every week we made a point of getting to every game to see him and just spend the day with him on a Saturday. And that was enjoyable, that was lovely. Obviously we used to bung him a couple of bob. He was learning a lot when he moved up there. It was the most amazing feeling ever. That your son is with your club that you supported.
RN: When did you start supporting United?
TB: I started supporting United in about 1956/57. Obviously when Munich happened I went on to them even more. My Dad was always Arsenal but there was no way I was going to support them and I still hate them now (laughing).
RN: You saw all of David’s games?
TB: When David moved up, we used to drive up every Saturday. Being in London meant we never knew where all the grounds were when they played the youth games and the like in Rochdale, Oldham, places like that. What we had to was leave at 5am, drive straight up to the Cliff training ground and just follow the coach. We used to do that every week. As time went on, when he played in the A team we used to go to Littleton Road and watch him there. Same sort of thing really, we did that for a couple of years. Then he started getting in the reserves and then we used to go midweek to games as well, following on the Saturday and midweek. It was the most enjoyable part of my life really. Being involved with a club like Manchester United.
RN: I interviewed Lee Sharpe the other week and he said you’d be amazed but United really was a family club back then?
TB. All I can speak of is from my experience. I don’t know what happens to other mums and dads. They were absolutely unbelievable to us. We used to come up and get Directors seats when we went to away games in the early years. Obviously it was a little taster for trying to get our son with them. It didn’t warrant that because there was no way he was going anywhere else but United. It was absolutely enjoyable, sitting there with Directors and things like that. Then when we went up to Old Trafford we’d be in the Directors Lounge and meet people. It was an amazing early part of David’s career that you just can’t put into words. The people up there. All the Directors. You see other ones on the tele and you think ‘urgh’. Even now when I go to away games and I meet them in the hotels they always come up and shake my hand and ask ‘how’s he doing?’.
RN: How was it with Fergie, you always had a great relationship?
TB: Even now, I still speak to him and see him. I’m a little bit like him. I like the discipline style of Fergie. I always have done. That’s how we used to run David’s Sunday side. It’s something that I’ve always installed in David really. But unfortunately that’s the way things go...
RN: Do you think the boot incident was the pivitol moment?
TB: Obviously the incident happened, it was just a complete and utter shame. If David had been sitting in the toilet with the door shut the boot would have still hit him, it was one of them situations. Things like that happen.
Sounds upset.
But I just...I don’t know...I wished it could have been resolved. I do wish it could have been sorted out. Because it was such a shame. Because they certainly miss him now.
RN: You think speaking as a fan...his crosses from the right...Ruud’s said he misses them...?
TB: You’ve only got to look at the two seasons since he left. When David was there, and Giggsy was on the left and David was on the right, the chances that used to come to Van Nistelrooy and other players. I’m speaking as a fan now. I got up to quite a few games in the first two years and I could see the frustration in Van Nistelrooy. He wasn’t getting any service. He was having to drop back and when you miss a player like David no matter what’s gone on, what’s happened, you look at his work rate, at his crosses, at his assists. He used to make between 23 and 25 assists a season and used to score between 9-10 goals a season. And we’re missing that. Our style of play at the moment is crying out for something like that.
RN: Since Becks left, we’ve had the 4-5-1, it’s not seemed a United system...?
TB: No, it’s not. We’ve never played like that. Never in all the years I’ve watched have we played that system and it’s all down to one man. And it’s not Fergie. I just feel we need to get back to that system... It’s like Ryan Giggs. He’s a great player but the way they are playing him now...
RN: Or not playing him...
TB: He played in the European game, scored a goal and did quite well. That’s what we’re missing. I just feel upset as a fan that we’re missing that...

To be continued...

copyright Red News 2005.


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